You won’t find many people who think car dealers have it easy. Even though sales numbers are up for both new and used cars, everyone knows it’s not the easiest way to make a buck. These days, customers do a lot of research online before visiting a dealership, which leads to more empowered negotiating and easier bargain hunting. Dealers know customers have options, including buying cars online or through referral services.

Dealers also know that customers hate haggling and wasting precious weekend hours sitting at a dealer’s desk. The stereotype of car salesmen as smarmy and untrustworthy may be undeserved, but it lingers. Add in low profit margins, a volatile market and the imperative to keep up with digital business trends, and it’s clear auto dealers need all the help they can get to make the car buying experience better for both sides. 

Read more: Customers

In 2014, automakers recalled over 63 million units, more than double the previous record of 30.8 million set in 2004. Regardless of whether that mark is achieved in 2015, all indications point to a new era of continually elevated recalls.

As National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Mark Rosekind recently noted, “I think we could actually see an increase in the number of recalls. The reality is that means your system is working.” 

Read more: Recalls

Recently, there has been a bipartisan proposal to increase and index the federal tax on gasoline. The immediate responses on one side have been to dismiss the notion as just another tax increase or to oppose it because of the regressive impact of such a tax increase on lower income families. Many supporters of the proposal are favorably inclined because of the potential impact on conservation and the shift to alternative energy sources. Both groups tend to ignore what should be the primary purpose of the tax.

 In 1997, the last change in the federal tax was set at 18.4 cents allocating 2.86 cents for the Mass Transit Programs. The current total average federal and state taxes amount to 48.5 cents per gallon, ranging from a low of 20.7 cents to a high of 68.9 cents.

Read more: Government

Perhaps you remember the old television series “Cheers,” which nearly always began with a patron walking in and everyone calling out his name: “Norm!” The idea of going to a business where they know you on a personal level is not just an idea on TV anymore. This idealistic scenario is being made possible by newly available data derived, in part, from the Internet of Things. Data transmitted from thousands of embedded sensors and captured by powerful processing platforms are enabling organizations to understand and communicate with consumers at a level never before possible. 

In the automotive industry, car manufacturers and dealers have begun leveraging what they know about customers to deliver a uniquely personal sales and marketing experience. Knowing a customer’s name is proving to be an important competitive advantage in this ever-changing industry. 

Read more: Technology

Trust and high levels of customer service are key factors in securing customer loyalty, which translates into ongoing revenue thanks to service maintenance and repairs. Dealers seem to be making the sale, but losing out in the long-term revenue associated with a trusted shop to maintain and repair cars. Best practices today can boost service revenue by maintaining relationships with customers many years beyond the initial sale.

The auto service industry reels in $215 billion (as of 2013) and is projected to grow by 15 percent within the next three years. Despite these impressive numbers, many shops are only securing small pieces of this pie. In particular, dealers are missing out: In 2013, dealers experienced a decrease in service operations by seven percent. Additionally, the average age of cars is increasing and dealers are missing out on this as well. The average age of cars has increased by 14 percent since 2008 and more than 86 percent of vehicles were identified as out-of-warranty in 2011. Yet, one study found that 47 percent of service business is lost by dealers when cars are aged between three and six years.

Read more: Service

As automotive recalls continue to roll in, 2014 could very likely go down as the “Year of the Recall,” having been punctuated by record numbers of high- profile auto and auto-related parts recalls. Every time you turn on the news, fresh reports and recall notifications are being issued, despite the fact that automakers are making dedicated efforts to provide top-quality, safe vehicles. With the sheer number of recalls, it’s hard to keep track of them all and fully grasp the cumulative impact they had on the automotive industry in 2014.

Read more: Recall

The automotive industry has been cruising in the fast lane for the last year or so, enjoying relatively strong growth and profitability but maintaining that momentum will require ingenuity and agility. The immediate challenge is the outlook on sales growth, considering the major question marks about demand in many global markets. The longer-term challenge is the changing nature of the business itself. 

Read more: Service Providers

As executives in the automotive industry, we’ve all read surveys and feedback from customers complaining about uncomfortable car dealerships. A sales associate told a customer if she didn’t sign on the dotted line right now, that dream car would be gone tomorrow.

Car shoppers of the 21st century don’t really want to operate in that high-stakes environment. Putting undue pressure on people may close a sale here and there, but it won’t help your dealership build long-term relationships with customers.

Read more: Dealers / Retail

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